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Friday, May 14, 2010

Psycho Semi-Centennial: An Ode to Marion Crane

By BJ-C*

The queen of the "penultimate girls," Marion Crane is a female character that we have idolized despite never really getting to know her. Although named "Mary" in the novel, Marion Crane will forever live in our hearts as the girl in the shower, taken too soon. Absolutely gorgeous and stylish, yet Marion Crane is mainly iconic thanks to her brutal, naked murder scene in Psycho.

Poor Marion was unhappy in her relationshit with her "boyfriend", Sam Loomis. (Yes, they got the name Loomis for Halloween from her boyfriend). He tells her to take the afternoon off and she basically says "kick rocks" and heads back to work. Her boss shows up soon after with a man named Tom Cassidy, a wealthy customer who gives her $40,000 to put in the bank for him. Already in a bad mood, Marion steals the money and goes on the run. While this lead-up is probably the ONLY part of the film people struggle with as far as remembering what happens, it is a major part of the film as far as the character Marion is concerned. We get to see her sexy, angry, conniving, and oh-so-convincing. If it wasn't for these scenes, the audience wouldn't know ANYTHING about the true nature of the character.

While on the run, she turns off the main road and winds up at the Bates Motel. Once she arrives, she checks into the hotel with the proprietor... Norman Bates. Cue the scary music, give the audience a really uncomfortable feeling, and the movie kicks it into high gear. Once she wraps up the remaining money in a newspaper, Marion overhears an extreme argument between Norman and his "mother" about his decision to let Marion in the house. Always with a touch of class, Marion manages to keep her cool and eavesdrop without having to break down a wall.

After sitting through Norman's tale of being "trapped" by his obligation to his mentally ill mother, the story starts to layer. Hitchcock tricks us by introducing Marion's conflict about returning the money, as she too is in her own personal trap. She very carefully suggests having his mother committed and Norman angrily refuses; then... shit hits the fan.

She bids him goodnight, and returns to her room. While trying to figure out how to fix things with her boss and calculating how much she has spent of his money, she undresses (sporting those insane torpedo boobs). Norman watches her from a peephole as she prepares for a shower. And then... the amazing music Busta Rhymes ripped off comes full force. A mysterious figure enters the bathroom, shadowed by the shower curtain, and stabs Marion to death.

Norman presumes his mother killed Marion, so he attempts to dispose of all traces of the crime to protect her. He puts Marion's body and all her possessions, including money hidden in newspaper, into the trunk of her car, and sinks it in a nearby swamp. The infamous twist ending reveals that the murderer is in fact Norman, who murdered his mother years before and has since developed a split personality in which he kills people under "Mother's" persona.

The thing that remains so insane about this film is that Hitchcock cast an absolutely humongous star as the lead, and then killed her off before the film even hit the halfway mark. It blew people's minds and made her death all the more memorable. She made it horrifying to take showers and I'll admit, I still do double-checks on my locked door if I'm showering in a hotel or home alone. There was a time when I attempted to buy the "Psycho Shower Curtain" and realized I'd be more paranoid than ever if I had the shadowy figure of "Mother" watching me take a shower.

The other brilliant thing people often forget is that you never see Marion stabbed. Through Hitch's expert filmmaking, the scene is edited in such a way that we never see the knife actually puncture her. We see a screaming woman, a knife blade, some body shots with a knife near it, and chocolate syrup at the bottom of the tub. That's it. What has been noted as one of the most HORRIFYING kills in horror movie history, never shows anything. It just goes to show that expert filmmaking trumps over-the-top gore any day.

* Cross-posted from Day of the Woman.


le0pard13 said...

Great write up of this character and scene, B-Sol! Thanks for this.

B-Sol said...

No problem! BJ-C did all the work, I was just lucky enough to get permission to repost it as part of the Psycho Semi-Centennial series!

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